In Kenya, U.S. Senator's Win Stirs Hopes of Aid
KOGELO, Kenya Barely had Barack Obama declared a landslide victory in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois when his most ardent supporters began organizing his To Do list.
Roads, education, water, and electricity the staples of traditional U.S. "pork barrel" projects that new legislators are expected to bring back to their home districts were there.
But the district is thousands of miles from Illinois in a green corner of Africa, where his followers have no votes, only hopes, that their part of Kenya near the Ugandan border will win some respite from desperate poverty.
For the 43-year-old Harvard trained lawyer and activist is Kenya's favorite American son: He was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and a white American mother and raised in America.
"Maybe he'll supply us with water or electricity, a road," said Manas Oyucho, headmaster of Nyangoma-Kogelo Primary School, gesturing toward the dirt track that leads into Obama's ancestral village. "Maybe it will be tarmacked."
News of Obama's win over Republican Alan Keyes by 76 percent to 22 percent was only a few hours old, and the lobbying campaign for Kogelo was in full swing under the equatorial sun.
Journalists who came the 300 km (186 miles) from Nairobi to visit the village were whisked off to tour the local schools, a short walk through a maize field from the farm where Obama's father, noted Kenyan economist Barack Obama Sr., is buried.
Students in a secondary school classroom, under the watchful eyes of their principal, dutifully said they hoped Obama would help their schools and provide scholarships.
County councilors who came to Kogelo for a congratulatory visit to the Obama family echoed the hopes that Obama would provide for them what the Kenyan government cannot.
Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori said Obama's victory was far more important for Kenyans than the then-undecided U.S. presidential race, since it was an affirmation that anyone who wants to work hard can succeed in America.
But he cautioned that Obama may be in for a hard time, given Africa's high expectations.
"A lot of black countries are going to believe that because he is in the Senate, he is going to do a lot for them, Kenya among them. But he is only one man out of 100," he said.
For months now, Kenya has claimed Obama as one of its own.
Newspapers had taken to calling him "Senator Obama" months before the polls and showered him with praise after his show-stealing speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston.
It is in Kogelo where pride pulses strongest.
Sarah Hussein Onyango Obama, the woman who raised Barack Obama Sr. and is considered the senator's paternal grandmother, and her family spent the night awake by the radio, listening for the results, the best of which came around 2 a.m. (2300 GMT).
"I learned it from the radio and I was very happy," the hale 82-year-old said.
Instead of tending to her maize, millet, and beans as she does most mornings, "Mama Sarah" spent Wednesday greeting local dignitaries, well-wishers, and granting press interviews.
Earlier plans for a traditional Luo tribal celebration are on hold, while the village elders and the Obama family discuss how best to commemorate the historic victory.
She does not know when she will go to Chicago to visit her grandson but said her passport is ready and all she is awaiting is the invitation. But all that can wait.
"When the visitors have stopped coming, I'll sleep" she said, still glowing from the news.